Hassocks, Jane Hissey and a cuddly ‘Old Bear’

Jane Hissey at work, with her new characters on the table
Jane Hissey at work, with her new characters on the table

Whatever happened to Old Bear?

He became famous as the central character in Jane Hissey’s first illustrated book for children and the good news is: he is safe and well and living comfortably in a drawer.

Jane Hissey's new book

Jane Hissey's new book

‘Old Bear’ launched Jane’s career while she was living in Hassocks and her characters, including the dusty old teddy, his wise bear friend, Bramwell Brown and a toy giraffe called Jolly Tall, have been delighting fans since the 1980s.

Jane said: “Old Bear was given to me by my grandmother when I was born. I used to carry him in a suitcase on the train when I gave talks to children but his head was in danger of falling off so I can’t do that now.

“I keep him in a drawer and he is well looked after but he is 60 like me and increasingly threadbare.”

Jane wrote and illustrated her books while she was bringing up her family in Woodsland Road and her stories have appeared in a BAFTA award-winning stop-animation television series.

Jane now lives near Uckfield and through her new Brighton-based publisher, The Salariya Book Company, she has just produced a book in rhyme called ‘Ruby, Blue and Blanket’.

It’s an enchanting tale about a group of new characters who play dressing-up but can’t decide which outfits to wear.

‘Ruby, Blue and Blanket’ comes out at the end of February, ten years after Jane’s last Old Bear title hit the bookshelves but there are exciting plans for more of her original stories to be re-published.

Jane has been busy between book titles with her bear series on television and admits she has a house full of teddies and toys.

“At one point, we had a bit of disaster with an infestation of clothes moths,” she said. “I kept all the toys in a chest but one day, when I opened it, I found a little felt elephant. I didn’t recognise him. The moths had got to him and all the felt had been eaten away. There were just his eyes and cotton stitching left.”

Jane had to put some of her toys in the freezer to kill off the moths’ eggs but Old Bear, although a little worn, is safe and happily living in retirement.

Life for Jane on the other hand could not be busier. She said: “It’s exciting and a thrill to create an entirely new book of characters.”

Ruby, Blue and Blanket is out on February 27.